Bulldogs seek to buck trend at Williams-Brice Stadium

Williams-Brice Stadium has been a House of Horrors for Georgia.

It has been well-documented that the Bulldogs have gone into South Carolina’s football venue and had their heads handed to them in their past two visits. But it goes beyond that.

Even some of Georgia’s powerful, highly ranked teams have gone to Columbia and struggled to get out of there in one piece.

  • In 2000, No. 9 Georgia had five passes intercepted en route to a 21-10 loss to an unranked South Carolina squad.
  • The 2002 SEC champion Bulldogs needed a David Pollack pick-pocket interception in the end zone for their only touchdown in a 13-7 victory.
  • A 2004 team that finished No. 6 in the country narrowly escaped Williams-Brice with a 20-16 win.
  • The preseason No. 1-ranked 2008 Bulldogs barely mustered a 14-7 win.
  • Going further back, old Bulldogs will point to the 1988 undefeated and sixth-ranked team that was throttled 23-10. And the 1959 SEC championship team is still trying to explain its only loss that season — 30-14 to a South Carolina squad that would finish 6-4.

“Those folks are crazy,” said David Greene, who quarterbacked Georgia’s narrow victories in 2002 and ’04. “It’s one of the more hostile environments that I’ve ever played in. It’s loud, the fans are right on top of you, and they really get into it.”

Steve Spurrier’s Gamecocks had their way with the Bulldogs during Georgia’s past two visits. South Carolina won those two by a combined score of 52-13 — including 35-7 in 2012.

“We’ve really struggled there over the last couple of years,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “Of course, two years ago we got beat down pretty bad. Their crowd was in it, their players made plays, they took a 21-nothing lead in the first quarter and never really looked back. … So it’s been tough for Georgia in that stadium as of late.”

Spurrier was glad to hear that the Bulldogs’ struggles on his home field remain fresh on their minds.

“I like it that they talk about that,” he said on his radio call-in show Thursday night.

Georgia will seek to reverse the trend Saturday when the No. 6-ranked Bulldogs (1-0) return to Williams-Brice to face the No. 24 Gamecocks (1-1, 0-1 SEC) in a nationally televised game (CBS, 3:30 p.m.). As always, it’s a game of vital importance in the SEC.

It’s essentially an SEC East elimination game for the Gamecocks, who were humiliated by Texas A&M 52-28 in their season opener Aug. 28. South Carolina righted its ship Saturday with a 33-23 victory over East Carolina.

Georgia opened with a 45-21 win over Clemson on Aug. 30 and didn’t play last weekend. The Bulldogs enter as about a touchdown favorite.

But Spurrier relishes the role of underdog against Georgia, and a win Saturday could prove quite monumental. Not only would it improve his personal record to 16-6 against Bulldogs — and even it at 5-5 at South Carolina — he also would move into a tie with Georgia’s Vince Dooley as the No. 2 winningest SEC coach of all time with 201 career victories.

“I think they’re up 5-4 on us, so we’ve sort of held our own,” said Spurrier, who had won 18 consecutive home games before the loss to Texas A&M. “But every game’s a different game, every team’s a different team. It’s always fun to see what happens.”

The Bulldogs’ struggles at Williams-Brice primarily have to do with scoring. Georgia offenses have been some of the highest-scoring in school history under Richt, but they have struggled to score in Columbia. They haven’t scored more than 20 points there since 1994 and have averaged 11.2 points in their past four trips.

Only 15 of Georgia’s starters this season were heavily involved in the 2012 debacle at Williams-Brice Stadium. They would like to be the group that changes the trend at Williams-Brice.

“I think the key is you’ve got to get after them early, and that’s one thing we weren’t able to do,” Greene said. “I think it’d be huge to get the lead early and kind of set the tone that they’re the better team. South Carolina is actually kind of vulnerable right now. Hit ’em in the mouth early and there’s a good chance you’ll quiet them down.”

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